Etsy sellers start a week-long strike over increased fees and other conditions: NPR

Etsy has increased the transaction fee of 5% for sellers to 6.5%.

Mark Lennihan / AP

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Mark Lennihan / AP

Etsy has increased the transaction fee of 5% for sellers to 6.5%.

Mark Lennihan / AP

Thousands of Etsy sellers – artists who make money selling their handmade goods on the website – close their (online) stores for the week and go on strike.

Earlier this year, Etsys CEO Josh Silverman announced that from April 11, the company would raise the 5% transaction fee for sellers to 6.5%. This was done to fund improvements in marketing and sales tools, among other changes, Silverman said.

Sellers are tired of new transaction fees and other Etsy-imposed costs. Many sellers feel that Etsy is keen to pressure the platform’s independent artists with these new policies.

In response, Etsy vendors banded together and launched a campaign urging other artisans and their customers to leave the site for a week in protest. Organizers said more than 5,000 stores promised to attend this week.

In a letter sent to Silverman on Monday, Etsy went on strike: “Etsy has become a direct hostile place for authentic small businesses to operate. For both full-time and part-time salespeople, the changes to Etsy have brought many of us to the brink of financial ruin.”

“After giving Etsy two years of record profits under the most difficult circumstances imaginable, we are tired, frustrated and ready to fight for our place at the table,” they added.

This is not a strike in the legal or traditional sense. So there will be no physical streaks. Salespeople are not workers, Etsy is not their employer, and they are not covered by the National Labor Relations Act.

But for Lori Peterson, a salesperson at Etsy, the setup feels very similar to a traditional employer-employee relationship.

“Technically, we’re just customers of Etsy because they have a platform and we’re on it,” she told NPR. “But we are also the workers for them, and they make money directly from our work.”

The collective action of Etsy salespeople is part of a broader wave of workers pushing companies for better terms and wages. It comes days after workers at an Amazon facility in Staten Island and employees at some Starbucks locations voted to join a union.

Off-site ads and other fees hurt, sellers say

Kristi Cassidy has been actively selling her Victorian, Gothic, Steampunk wedding dresses and costumes on Etsys online marketplace since 2007.

Her product is niche, but Cassidy found a home on Etsy that specializes in selling handmade or vintage items. She has been able to make a living by creating bespoke dresses for her clients.

That is, until Etsy started making big changes, she told NPR. This latest fee increase comes just a few years after another bump in transaction fees for sellers.

“It was like this feeling of putting more and more work into my store and getting less and less out of it as I went,” she said.

Kristi Cassidy, pictured here in 2019, is an Etsy salesman who makes Gothic, Victorian dresses and costumes. She is one of the organizers behind the Etsy sales strike.

Kristi Cassidy

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Kristi Cassidy

Cassidy helped organize the Etsy strike campaign after she found other annoyed salespeople on social media felt the same way.

Sellers report that they see more retailers on the site and some stores stealing other artists’ designs. Many people who spoke to NPR said they felt that Etsy was not doing anything about the complaints they were sending to the company about these issues.

These independent stores also want to be able to opt out of off-site ads. These are Etsy-created campaigns for specific ads that are published all over the Internet; Costs are pushed to sellers when they make a sale based on these ads.

Cassidy said those ads make it hard to know what she would eventually take home from custom orders.

“Off-site ads make my business completely unsustainable,” she said.

Organizers say more action may be needed

According to Etsy, its site has 5.3 million active sellers and more than 90 million active buyers. The company has defended the fee structure.

“The success of our salespeople is a top priority for Etsy. We are always receptive to salesperson feedback, and in fact, the new fee structure will enable us to increase our investment in areas outlined in the petition, including marketing, customer support and removal lists. does not comply with our policies, “said a spokesman for Etsy.

Nicole Lewis, who runs her own Etsy store, defended the company. She urged artists to raise prices and do other things to reduce costs, not to attack the company.

“If this fee increase makes you nervous, your prices are not correct,” she told NPR. “There are so many things that salespeople can do behind the scenes at their end … that can drastically reduce those costs.”

Peterson does not want to do that.

“I do not want to milk my customers for as much as I can get out of them. I feel I owe it to my customers to give them a fair price. And I want to see my art in the world,” she said. “That’s what it is for me as an artist.”

Vendors who spoke to NPR said this may not be the last of this kind of activism by artists on Etsy.

The main organizers behind the Etsy strike are considering making the effort a kind of work organization for independent sellers, Cassidy said.

“I’m not sure what we call it, but we are all clearly in favor of making it a reality,” she said. “We’re all in it in the long run.”

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